Wedding Dinner :: To Family Style or Not

My fiance and I were up in Oregon a few weeks ago for our friends' wedding in the Portland area (such a fun wedding and entire extended weekend, by the way! Future post to come). Even with a full wedding schedule, we managed to fit in two meetings for our own wedding - we have really had to make the most of the time we are up in Oregon! And while our wedding is actually in the Hood River area (about an hour drive east of Portland), we quickly found that so many of the vendors are happy to make the drive for Hood River and Mount Hood weddings. So, while we were in the City of Roses, we met with a caterer and a photographer. For this post, I'll be talking FOOD! My fiance and I both love great food...I mean, who doesn't?! Spending as much time as we have in Oregon's Willamette Valley and the Bay Area, there's no shortage of amazing food; from all the fresh and local ingredients, to an array of restaurants to farmers markets. So, food was one of the first things we thought about when it came to our wedding. We both agreed we didn't necessarily want anything fancy or elaborate, we just wanted it to be good.

What we quickly realized is that there is more to wedding food than the actual food part. You have to also consider how you are serving it. I originally had my heart set on family style for a few reasons. It started with the images of the long tables, below, which are just so picturesque. I also love that family style, long table or not, lends to conversation among the guests and a feeling of community and family (hence the name). Here is some of my family style inspiration...


Source: left, middle, right




Source: all four

What I didn't consider were some drawbacks that came to my attention during our first caterer meeting. The main drawback was the price. The caterers need additional servers than they would with a buffet dinner, in order to bring around the different dishes and clear salad plates. And more servers equals more money. Another possible negative - the timing can be tough. You want people eating at generally the same time, especially if there are large tables involved. You don't want someone with no food sitting next to someone who has already been served. And the other issue can be the amounts of food served. The caterers need to be vigilant to make sure everyone is getting the right amount of food. Some people could take too much and others would be left with not enough.

The interesting thing is that the first catering company we met with a few months ago completely discouraged us from doing family style, saying each of these problems were extremely troublesome. The next catering company we met with a couple weeks ago was much more flexible. They made it seem like each of the issues could be somewhat easily overcome. They also broke out the pricing, while the first guys wanted to bundle everything and wouldn't show us how much each component costed. I don't like to be strong-armed into any decision, especially when it comes to such an important day! Also, we liked caterer #2's cuisine and personality much better, so whether we decide on family style or buffet, we definitely have a great lead on a place to work with.

Have you considered family style for your wedding? If so, did you run into the same hurdles as I have? How did you overcome them, or did you decide on another option (buffet, plated)?